Can We Keep 'Em--Cubs 6 Mariners 1

It was a brief hiatus against two wildcard foes, but the Cubs hometown magic was back in force. The Cubs completed the season sweep of the Mariners with a complete victory. Jon Lester wobbled but remained stout over six scoreless frames. For one night, the Cubs injury list reinforcements provided a needed spark. It was a much needed lift with both Javier Baez and Kris Bryant nursing injuries heading into the offday. Thankfully the deep bench and bullpen allowed the Cubs to navigate their way to win number 75.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Jon Lester retired speedy Mallex Smith to start the game. Dylan Moore singled and then stole second. Austin Nola and Kyle Seager each drew walks to load the bases with just one out. Tom Murphy hit a pop fly into center that wasn’t deep enough to score Moore. Dundee Crown’s own Ryan Court picked up where he left off the last game with an inning ending strikeout.

King Felix is not who he once was, and the numbers this seasons reflect that. Ben Zobrist struck out swinging to open the game. Kyle Schwarber walked, but Hernandez punched out the scorching hot Nicholas Castellanos. Anthony Rizzo grounded out to short to end the inning. Big Jon cruised through the second and third inning facing the minimum. Mallex Smith‘s third inning tootblan kept the pitch count down.

Willson Contreras unloaded on a Hernandez offering to start the second inning. Ian Happ walked and stole second with one out, but the veteran righty worked around the base runner to keep the Cubs at one. Ben Zobrist walked to start the bottom of the third. Schwarber doubled on a liner into center. Castellanos hit a sacrifice fly to advance the runners to double the Cubs lead. Rizzo grounded out without driving in Schwarber. Contreras almost hit another bomb, but it hooked foul. He instead had to settle for a walk. Ian Happ struck out to end the inning.

Lester wobbled again in the fourth inning. Seager singled to start the inning, and Tom Murphy drew another Lester base on balls. Ryan Court and Dee Gordon were each struck out. Braden Bishop hit a ground ball single with two outs to load the bases. Hernandez was pinch hit for by Tim Lopes who struck out swinging to end the inning.

Wade LeBlanc pitched a clean fourth inning. Lester pitched a more economical inning, pitching around a one out Dylan Moore single and steal. Zobrist and Schwarber had back to back singles to start the inning. Castellanos launched his twelfth homer with the Cubs making the game rather comfortable. Rizzo and Contreras reached, but an Ian Happ double play ball killed most of the momentum. Heyward struck out swinging to end the frame.

Ryan Court finally got his Wrigley Field moment slashing a solid one out single in the sixth inning. Dee Gordon singled to advance Court to third. Bishop struck out swinging before Gordon advanced to second on a steal. Keon Broxton drew another walk from Lester. Mallex Smith struck out looking on Lester’s 107th pitch of the night to keep the Mariners frustrated once again.

Steve Cishek and Brandon Brennan traded clean frames to keep the game 5-0 heading into the stretch. Schwarber obliterated a ball to greet Erik Swanson and make it a 6-0 Cubs lead. Castellanos bounced a groundball up the middle next. Anthony Rizzo reached on some more Mariners defense. Contreras bounced the ball down to third where a bobble cost the M’s an out in the fielder’s choice. Happ bounced into another double play this time to end the inning.

Brandon Kintzler worked the eighth inning starting with a Tom Murphy ground out and Court striking out for the third time. Gordon and Bishop hit back to back soft singles to end Kintzler’s night. Kyle Ryan was inserted to face former farm favorite Dan Vogelbach. Ryan threw a decent pitch that Vogelbach dumped into shallow left. Dee Gordon raced around third to score but Schwarber fired a backpick throw to get a Bishop who rounded too far around second for the final out. The run should have been waved off but by a technicality of when and what was challenged allowed the Mariners to get a run.

Zac Grotz set the Cubs down in order to send the game to the ninth at the 6-1 final score. Ryan retired Mallex Smith before Rowan Wick nailed down the final two outs. Wick threw six pitches and struck out one batter in his appearance. The righty was dominant once again as the Cubs kept pace with the Cardinals for another night.

Random Reference

A lot of things went right for the Cubs in another win over a bad foe. Willson Contreras return has to be among the most positive. The Cubs All-Star catcher unloaded on a Hernandez early, and it is hard not to daydream a little about the Cubs having Javy and Bryant healthy with Willson back.

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  • fb_avatar

    Lots of contributors tonight, but welcome back Zo and Willson--your table is ready!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Cubs september lineup, when zo is in there will be deep: 1 zobrist 2 castellanos 3 bryant 4 rizzo 5 baez 6 schwarber 7 contreras 8 heyward.

    But they are going to need to catch the cardinals. because I dont like the odds on a one game playoff against scherzer

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I would actually rather face Sherzer than Strasburg.

    One thing to keep in mind is that Washington Schedule is brutal. After the Met game tonight against Degrom, they go to Atlanta for four game series. Then to Minnesota for 3. Home to Atlanta for 3, then to the Lou for 3 and Miami for 3. They finish with 4 at home with Philly and 3 at home with Cleveland. The Miami series is the only 3 games against non playoff seeking teams. That's rough.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    7 games head-to-head against the DirtyBirds. I say let's just win the division and skip the WC game.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    My thoughts exactly.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Scherzer hasn’t won a game since he came off the IL. Maybe he’ll be healthier by playoff time but I agree we need the cards to realize that they can lose to under .500 teams.

  • StL beat SFG. PHI beat CIN. Only single decreases in the Magic Numbers, which are now:

    Division: 28
    Playoffs (WC): 23

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Shouldn’t they lead the division before they earn a magic number? The elimination number for the division is only 22.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    That's what I thought also.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Yes, it’s usual to refer to a Magic Number when leading and an Elimination Number when trailing. But it is not strictly necessary, the math is still the same. Any number of Cubs wins and StL losses equalling 28 gives the Cubs the division. That this number is greater than the number of games left reflects that the Cubs trail StL. I choose to focus on the positive and winning the division. An Elimination Number will be added when I think it is warrented. I was close to doing so after the weekend.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Fair enough. I guess magic number for WC and elimination number for division seems more appropriate to me. It would even make it more dramatic if the Cubs could flip the script and suddenly we’re back to the MN. But it’s definitely a tradition!

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Well, I think we’ll all know when the Cubs are in 1st again... ;o]

  • Yeah, that is what I have been holding onto for awhile. Just don't let the Cards be more than 3 games up when they come to town.

  • Contreras handed out a flew mlb lessons to the young Seattle team. Big Jon handed out a few mlb lessons on how not to let base runner cross the plate. Schwarber is really getting comfortable in left and at the plate. If all hands get back and are healthy the Cubs could be really difficult to beat. Looks like it's going to be their job to cool off the 'white hot' Cardinals.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It's uplifting the way the Cubs has been winning of late with some of their major contributors banged up and in the dugout.

  • I think from here on out, Schwarber needs to be starting almost every game in LF with St. Nick in RF and let Happ and Heyward split some time in CF.

    Zo could be the key at leadoff and at 2B. Russell is bringing very little to the plate as far as offense goes, and he could be used to spell Javy a couple of times down the stretch at SS.

    Have to consider letting either Alzolay/Underwood/Chatwood get a spot start (to rest the main starting pitchers a bit). If Darvish is out for a week or more, that could really hurt the rotation. Strop only sees time in blowouts and Holland only sees time as a true Loogy.

    Still would like to see Vic bat back in the lineup a little more...maybe at 1B to give Rizzo a rest once or twice down the stretch.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    The only issue there is that Zobrist is only going to play about 3 days a week. When he’s not leading off I really want to see Bryant there or maybe Contreras if they have to. Russell is fine on those days at 2B and batting 8th

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    I wonder if Rizzo' s back has been barking for awhile. Sapping his power and taking a step or two from him on the bases. If so, it hasn't effected his hitting, in general, or his defense. He still finds a way to come up big for his team.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think Javy, Riz, and KB have all been fighting wear and tear injuries. Javy gets a little time off to heal right now. Riz has had two brief times off for his back this year and KB gets a day off before the off day. But really all teams have this when you have guys who play every day all season long.

  • I'm happy to see a little love here for Schwarber, but I think many are failing to recognize how much he's helped in keeping this team afloat right now, as far as offense goes. Besides him, Castellanos has been the only other really hot bat. We all know one guy can't do it all by himself with solo home runs.

    Schwarber's last 33 games:
    .289/.395/.701/1.096 slashline
    114 PA, 18R, 11HR, 30RBI, 14BB, 22K

    Castellanos 31 games with the Cubs:
    .346/.378/.709/.1.086
    135 PA, 25R, 12HR, 24RBI, 6BB, 29K

    Seems if anyone is going to praise Castellanos for how good he's been as a Cub, they need to recognize that Schwarber has provided exactly the same production during basically that exact same time. They literally have both helped the Cubs score 37 runs apiece. In this stretch the Cubs have scored 154 runs as a team, so Schwarber and Castellanos have accounted for scoring or driving in 74 of the Cubs 154 runs. That's 48% of their runs in the last 33 games all by 2 players.

    Further, as far as the Schwarber is not clutch angle, or never gets the big hit when it's important narrative, BR keeps track of player's RBI opportunities and compares them to other players with the same amount of plate appearances and what their actual (and the average) runners on base for players with their number of PAs have.

    For example, in Kyle's 514 PAs, he has managed 77 RBIs. The actual number of runners on base for his PAs was 275 (134-81-60; reflects runners on 1st-2nd-3rd base). An average MLBer w/ 514 PAs only has 62 RBI, yet the average runners on base for that average MLBer is 303 (154-98-50), so essentially, Kyle has managed to drive in 15 more runs than the average MLB player with the same amount of plate appearances while Kyle has had 28 less runners on base for him to drive in. I'd say he's doing pretty darn good in that respect. After all, I find it pretty hard to drive in runners who aren't on base.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    That is some excellent research with very defining stats....that’s a good job!

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    The question I have is, has Kyle changed anything about his approach or is he just having a hot streak? It's wonderful to see him hitting, and it's loooooooooooong overdue. There's no question that his poor production prior to Castellanos' arrival is a part of the reason the Cubs are fighting for a WC spot instead of enjoying a division lead with St. Louis threatening. I think it's important to know what changed before making any decisions over the offseason whether to keep or replace him. The worst that could happen is that Theo and Co decide he is now hitting well and keep him - only to see him return to a .220 BA next year. In the meantime, good for Schwarbs.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    The thing is though Schwarber has been good most of the season. He has an .845 OPS and 112 wRC+ which makes him a productive player. Since the ASB he has a .933 OPS and 130 wRC+ and has only an 18.7 K rate. He’s been hampered by a ridiculously low BABIP. Some of that’s on him but he’s hit over 60% OPO and center all year so his BA should be 40 points higher. Part of it is his fault, he’s making a lot of outs to the pull side because he’s not elevating, but way too much of it is bad luck. Lately he’s been even better and the BABIP is still under .220. This is his best season but no one is going to credit him for it.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Good, and fair, questions. I don't know of anything that is obvious. Schwarber is just an enigma. It is so easy to dream on that powerful left-handed bat and hard-nosed character...

    I've always loved him and I still do. His presence and leadership are admired, and his talent is there if still a little tepid.

    We've talked a lot over the last few days about the possibility of trading a core piece, and I have been steadfast against it. But I will admit that I no longer consider Schwarber a core piece. Everyone's definition is different, but for now I consider our core to be Rizzo, KB, Javy, and Willson.

    Schwarber is one of those players you get frustrated with when imagining the possibilities, and dread the thought of dealing if he realizes his potential.

    I have so many mixed feelings I'm not sure where I stand with him. All the intangibles he brings and that big LH bat in the middle of the order is hard to give up on, but something needs to change with our team. I can usually see pretty clearly when looking towards the future, but I am admittedly dumbfounded on Schwarber.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    As were many the day he was drafted. And yes he's still only 26. Most guys freely admit they didn't learn how to be a MLB hitter until they were 28 or so.

    And frankly he's shown massive improvement in the OF. Neither he or Nick at Nite can be called a hack out there any longer.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I'm certainly not saying to give up on him. I love Schwarber. But something needs to change on this team, and of the "core", I think he is the weakest link.

    I identify the core as Rizzo, KB, Javy, and Willson. Some fans hear that big changes will be made, and they need to be. But there is nothing wrong with this core. We are not dealing from this core. We need to change most everything around this core, and that could include Schwarber. I still have high hopes for him, he is a good player, but something needs to give. I don't know exactly what the answers are.

    I, like everyone else, sees a problem of too much swing and miss and not enough contact. We can use some speed, and I heard Theo about a month ago and Jed a couple days ago admit we might actually need a real leadoff hitter. I could see a scenario where Schwarber stays, I hope he does. We need a new 2B and CF/RF if Schwarber stays. We could do that and keep him, but we run the risk of doing this all over again and just hoping things get better. Are we prepared to try, try again?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    As of right now, I would consider the core to include Nicky2bags and Schwarber. This would give us 6 of the 8 position players. All we would need then is a 2B and a Center Fielder, hopefully one or both contact hitters and leadoff.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    So right after I made my post, I saw in the recent posts column that someone else linked this article.

    https://www.bleachernation.com/2019/09/04/trying-to-hammer-home-just-how-good-kyle-schwarber-has-been/

    According to this guys article, Kyle's production has been great since July 1st. You ask great questions Cliff. I wish I could identify more of the why so we knew if it's sustainable. I'd bet that Theo and the coaching staff are much better at that than any of us keyboard jockeys. However, the one thing I can say that I'd recognize with his swing is how short and compact it has been recently. I'm pretty sure I've even heard JD comment on that recently.

    In a way, I think Kyle is finally just coming into his own just now. Remember he was rushed in 2015, then injured for 2016, yet was kind of a World Series hero. 2017 was miserable for him with the leadoff experiment and being sent down to the minors for a brief stint. 2018 was actually his first full MLB season, and now he's in the midst of his 2nd full MLB season. Yet, at the age of 26, he's the Cubs fastest hitter to reach 100 HR for his career. He's hit 89 HRs now in his last 398 games (2017-present) and 1510 plate appearances. Notice it's only 2.5 seasons worth of games, but as far as plate appearances, that's just over 2 season's worth for a regular player in the top half of a lineup. Even if he doesn't continue to hit at his better contact rates of late (discussed in the linked article), we know the power is legit, and if we have our lineup full of guys who can get on base in front of him, Kyle can be very dangerous batting 6th in our lineup.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Really great discussion about Schwarber, and I definitely agree that he's just coming into his own, prayerfully he's turning the corner; and I can really appreciate you putting in the effort to crunch the numbers. I saved one of my older posts from the middle of June that showed Schwarber batting .125 with RISP, and he's currently batting .225 with RISP; so there's been improvement............

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I have not wavered on Schwarber. He is just now putting it all together. He can rake, period. His left side power is rare and its easy power. Also, he is inexpensive. Absolutely no way he would be traded, because he would be impossible to replace. He is a left fielder who hits for big left side power and could still hit 40 HR' s this year. Kyle led the way in 2015 and pulled off the impossible in 2016 post season. He was hit with a very serious injury losing a whole season. The best is yet to come.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree with all of that. I think we will witness an even better version of Schwarbs in the future.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    This is a great point and one that I've belabored over the past couple seasons. Schwarber (and Russell) was rushed to the majors and not many fans realized--or considered--last year during his struggle that it was his first full season!

    He'll get better, I agree. But BP's point that something has to give is also valid.

    I think the biggest issue for the FO is that so many of these guys do still have great potential due to their young ages, but it's nearly impossible to have a team of young, not fully developed players be a contending team. Too much inconsistency.

    The Cubs really only need a few pieces, I think, to be back to whole next year: Castellanos (consistency!), legit CF and 2B - one of which is a veteran (Hoerner is coming), and veteran backup catcher and SS.

    Gone are Russell, Caratini, Happ, and Heyward. Bote is solid back-up infielder and bench bat. Almora is a solid back-up and can be a decent pinch hitter. Caratini is better than a back-up catcher and trade-able. Happ has trade value. Don't know how they can move Heyward, but you know Theo wants to at this point.

  • Off-day storytelling time, and I'm sure I'll offend someone.

    Right next to where I'm currently working is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called the Woodfire Grill. They have a big smoker right outside the door and a big stack of wood, right underneath a Mexican flag. I get there at 6:30 and they light the fire at 7:00. All day I watch these guys throwing pork shoulders and whole chickens and racks of ribs on the grill, and the smell. Makes it hard to concentrate on work. I'm a pitmaster myself.

    I walked over today to order lunch. They have a taco special, anything off the smoker. I placed a George Thourogood order, one chicken, one pork, one beef. The dude taking my order started to ask if I wanted flour or corn tortillas, but looked at me and just said "flour". I said "I'd like corn tortillas. Why would you assume I want flour? Cause I'm white?" He said yeah, all white people order flour tortillas. (Before you get too freaked out, we've come to know each other. We're joking).

    They have Cubs and White Sox decorations all over the restaurant. I asked him if he was a White Sox fan because they have a larger Hispanic fan base. He said no, he was a Cubs fan, "because they are good."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Corn tortillas all the way. I make mine myself at home. As for the White Sox, the only reason they won’t be good is if they get in their own way which they always do. They lost out on Manny Machado because they “didn’t believe” in the type of contract he wanted. I mean we can complain about our FO all we want but that’s crazy.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Can you send a dozen corn tortillas down to North Alabama? I'll share some with Cliff if he will drive up from Birmingham.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I'll confess that I'm a flour guy, but I'm not picky. I'll make the drive and bring beer, too!

  • Soler just hit # 40 congrats to him. He’s a DH again tonight.

  • In reply to stix:

    I always had a special place in my fan heart for Soler. .890 OPS is not too shabby either.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    I never liked him. He is a physical specimen who can crush a fastball, but his time with us coincided with building a versatile team. He wasn't that. I remember Maddon saying "we (coaches) need to do a better job of getting him prepared to play every day". That is coach-speak for calling out a lazy player. Watching him play defense or running the bases offended my baseball sensibilities. And I know what those young men put into their bodies to escape that island, and the debt to the smugglers that follows them for the rest of their lives.

    Good for him. I really am happy for him to finally succeed. I just can't help but think there is more to the timing and reasons behind this success than meets the eye.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    To each his own. I guess I take offense to people throwing around the word lazy, just like I don’t like it when people say Baez plays “selfishly” or “hero ball.” I always assumed Soler was squeezed out because there was a need for a closer and there frankly wasn’t even playing time to go around. He’s close to the same player as Schwarber, maybe now a little better, except from the right side. He isn’t a free agent until after the next two seasons, so I’m not exactly sure what reason there could be. Like La Stella and Baez, I think these guys blossom when given a chance to play everyday.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Soler's issue is that only excels on one side of the ball. Cubs play real baseball and a DH only provides half of a player. Schwarber has made himself an adequate left fielder and is an emergency catcher. Finally, Kyle bats from the left side with easy power and has a good on base % approach.

  • fb_avatar

    These are great discussions, especially about Soler and Schwarber. Who would you rather have in LF? I haven't seen Jorge play in a number of years and now Schwarber is getting better and better and smarter too--e.g. his throw to 2nd yesterday to nail the runner who went past the base (and Gordon should not have been allowed to score either.)
    I feel good that Vogelbach and Soler and even Candelario but I can't see them breaking into this lineup.
    So right now Wash lost and StL is losing 9-8 in the bottom of the 9th. I wouldn't call any game yet after seeing Wash come back after being 6 down in the 9th.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    StL lost.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Difficult to beat the cards, they came from behind twice after the fifth to take the lead but somehow the Giants found a way to win.

  • As stated, StL lost to SFG. PHI lost to CIN. Thus the new Magic Numbers:

    Division: 27
    Playoffs (WC): 22

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Because StL lost, the Cubs Elimination Number for the division doesn’t change. Maybe that’s why I don’t include that - it doesn’t change when something GOOD happens... :o)

  • Cards up 8-0 after three innings. No help from the Giants today.

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